Good grief, has it really been over two weeks since the London heats of the Patrón Perfectionists competition? Please forgive our tardiness. To be fair though, and we mean this in the best possible way, there was quite a lot to take in. Here’s why: while Reading, Manchester and Edinburgh had one heat each, demand in London was so great – and we mean that in both senses of the word – it was spread it over two. That meant double the amazingness – that goes for the presentations and the tipples we were tasked with judging.

The ‘we’ in question was Karine Tillard, Patrón UK Ambassador along with l’il ol’ us on both days, joined by Dean Shury Patrón Perfectionists 2015 winner on day one, and Robyn Wilkie, Patrón Perfectionists 2015 runner up on day two. Keeping us all in check were the ever-wonderful Sly Augustin from Trailer Happiness and Sarah Mitchell from Junkyard Golf Club hosting the proceedings on consecutive days.

You’d think that by now we’d have heard everything there is to hear about Patrón and tasted every possible way it can be served. WRONG. Which just goes to show how incredibly versatile the three expressions they had to choose from are. Step forward Patrón Silver, Patrón Añejo and Patrón Reposado – one of the very bright liquid stars that shone in every glass.

Kevin Pastant from Gillray’s

What with the number of competitors (20+) and this being London – home of creativity and a glorious mishmash of cultures, there were never going to be any cut and dried trends. That said, there were a few key flavours that shone through. A case in point was wine, sherry and vermouth, all used to delicious effect in drinks including the wittily named Sauvignon Plonk (Patrón Silver, lychee infused St-Germain, Waitara Sauvignon Blanc, clear apple juice and Bitter Truth Peach Bitters) from Matthew Eifion Jones from Peppermint Bar & Kitchen in Cardiff (yes, we were in London!).

Alejandro Garin from Original Sin went for sherry to add depth to his intriguing and very moreish, Georgia Brown (Patrón Reposado infused with peanut butter, Patrón Reposado, Pedro Ximenez sherry, Cynar and Peychaud’s Bitters); Raffaele Di Monaco from Park Chinois also reached for the sherry bottle for his Sense of the Place (Patrón Silver, Amontillado Sherry, lime juice, mandarin juice, tarragon infused syrup and Naga chilli bitters), while in the vermouth corner we had Sam Ameye from The Cocktail Trading Co who mixed up a boozy but delightfully quaffable La Cantera (Patrón Añejo, Noilly Prat, Martini Reserva Ambrato, Dry Curacao, Bénédictine and saline solution). And let’s not forget Champagne, used by Alastair Fraser from Little Bat to lengthen his drink, the Pioneer (Patrón Silver, griotte cherry and pineapple syrup, Creme de Noyaux, lemon juice and Champagne).

Alejandro Garant from Original Sin

Savoury ingredients got a look in too. As they should do, tequila is the perfect spirit to pair with food. Fact. We tasted how well Patrón mixed with tomatoes courtesy of Saverio Vicari from The Rib Room with his aptly named De Vine (Patrón Silver, cherry tomatoes, apple smoked salt, St-Germain, lemon juice, celery bitters), there was a hint of it in Francesco Braun from Bart’s Poole of Champions (Patrón Reposado, cherry tomato bitters, Habanero-infused Modelo beer reduction with Raicilla sprayed on top), and Anja Maria Rubin from Trailer Happiness donned full Mexican (or was it Spanish?) garb to present her Hechos a Mano, a purposely homely and culinary affair (Patrón Reposado, lime sherbet, sweetcorn syrup, sour cream avocado liqueur), and let’s not forget Nabil Mehdinejad from Ours who brought earthy beetroot to the party with his Blood on the Leaves (Patrón Silver, Kamm & Sons, lime juice, agave, sage leaves, dehydrated beetroot powder and blood orange soda).

Did we mention peppers? They made a big, bold impact over the two days. We felt heat in all manner of guises, including the Modern Africa from Kevin Pastant representing host bar Gillray’s (Patrón Silver infused with red hot chilli peppers, Cointreau, pineapple, lime and orange juices and brown sugar). More peppery touches came from Andrea Griggion from Brasserie Zédel with his cocktail The Aztec Sun Stone (Patrón Añejo, Illegal Patrón Mescal, homemade black pepper syrup and chilli bitters). Dario Guaglione from the Worship Street Whistling Shop used chilli and peppers in his Tres Leches (Patrón Silver, red bell pepper and raspberry cordial, raspberry, lime juice, agave syrup, whole milk and chilli), cleverly served in a mini sweet jar.

Another Francesco, this time from Aqua created a Swizzle del flor (Patrón Silver, lime, chopped Padron pepper, agave syrup and Aperol), and Ilario Avantaggiati from La Oficina reached for the pink peppercorns for his Perfectionists Swizzle (Patrón Silver, grilled lime juice, agave syrup, mango, mint, basil and coriander leaves, pimento berries, pink peppercorns and Angostura bitters). And if anyone should know about Mexican flavours it was Eduardo de la Mora. He was born there but now works in Three Six Six in less sunny Brixton. His cocktail, La Hacienda del Jefe (bay leaf, samphire, chunk of pineapple, Patrón Silver, Annatto and Ancho chilli syrup, lime juice, coconut water and cardamom bitters) called on the traditional Mexican molcajete to muddle his first three ingredients for authenticity – nice touch.

Matyas Busek from Fogg’s Residence

Less obvious ingredients were ant juice. Yes, juice from your actual ants! Matyas Busek from Fogg’s Residence used them in his Sight of Baobab (Patrón Silver, strawberry verbena oleo, ant juice, rabarbaro and a spray of tonka) to dramatic effect. Only one person went for a blue drink topped with a dusting of stars and that Lukas Stafin from Purl London. His Arkanis cocktail (Patrón Silver, Blue Curacao, velvet falernum, lime juice, orgeat, pineapple juice and coconut mix) brought sweetness and a whole lorra fun to the proceedings. We also have to add a very special mention to Andrei Pantiru from 14 Leicester Place who created four special perfumes with a Patrón Citrónge base to garnish his drink, Agua de Jalisco EDT (Patrón Silver, Patrón Citrónge Orange, aqua de Jamaica, grapefruit juice, grapefruit bitters). Not only did it make for a theatrical touch but the scents were absolutely gorgeous.

Like the previous heats, originality, appearance, presentation skills and flavour were pondered and deliberated over before the winners were announced. In the end it was Matyas Busek from Fogg’s Residence and Raffaele Di Monaco from Pink Chinois who took the top spots. They both ticked all the boxes big time and will be joining Steven Batchelor, Joe Wild and Mike McGinty at the UK Finals.

The drinks:

Sight of Baobab – Matyas Busek (Foggs Residence)

45ml Patrón Silver
15ml strawberry verbena oleo
10ml ant juice
20ml pink peppercorn rubarbaro
Spray of tonka

Method:
Combine all ingredients. Pour into a vintage coupette glass. Garnish with orange strips, roasted ants and a spray of tonka.

Raffaele Di Monaco from Park Chinois

Sense of the Place – Raffaele Di Monaco (Park Chinois)

50ml Patrón Silver
10ml Amontillado Sherry
15ml lime juice
30ml mandarin juice
10ml Tarragon infused syrup
5 drops Naga chilli bitters

Method:
Combine all ingredients and shake. Pour into ceramic cup on a wood coaster. Garnish with tarragon and roasted baby corn, season with El Guano salt.

Next stop: It’s only the UK finals! Coming to social media channels near you on
16th November. Don’t miss it.

#PatronPerfectionists.

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